This article readdresses Gramsci's use of Italian history, focusing on his judgement that the Italian Renaissance marked the start of a specifically Italian course of historical failure because it led directly to the Counter-Reformation, the Risorgimento and Fascism. It shows that Gramsci's political strategy after 1923 – on the need for a mass socialist movement – informed his historical opinions. His view of a regressive Renaissance contrasted the dominant historiographical consensus that saw it as the start of European modernity. Gramsci conceptualized modern European history according to a Reformation–Renaissance dichotomy that also determined his general sense of culture. By contrasting Catholic Italy (whose Renaissance had failed to lead to a Reformation) with the Protestant north (whose general Renaissance had formed a harmonious couplet with the Reformation), Gramsci reveals that his single greatest debt as a historian was to Weber rather than Marx or Croce.